Funeral Sermon Chrissie Hittel

Day One-Let there be light by Phillip Ratner

Day One-Let there be light by Phillip Ratner

Funeral Sermon for Chrissie Hittel, based on Ps 8 & Jn 3:16-17. By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson. May 7, 2013 at 11:00 A.M., St Peter Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat.

Chrissie Hittel, a well loved mother, grandmother, wife, aunt, teacher, friend, active citizen in the church and community, and sister in Christ has left us for her eternal home in heaven after a long and meaningful life of 98 years. What a difference she has made too! The world and the church is a better place because of Chrissie. You and I are better people for having the privilege of known and loved, and been loved by Chrissie. She has left her mark in our hearts and lives.

   As a pastor I’m privileged to be with church members to share important milestones. Last Friday was an evening I shall never forget. Chrissie’s friend Trudy and I were with Chrissie. She had one of those special moments of alertness that I’ve observed on many occasions when people are near death. Chrissie recognised us and was able to communicate with us. True to her form, she expressed her gratitude for coming to see her. I asked her if she would like to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. She told me with an enthusiastic “Yes” that she would. So I communed her and then I suggested that Trudy and I would sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Amazing Grace,” and if she was able to sing she was welcome to do so as well. Chrissie’s eyes lit up and a big smile came on her face. We started to sing. Guess what? The 98-year-old Saint Chrissie sang along with us. She sang so beautifully, so clearly, so joyfully, so lovingly that it was a wonder to behold! Both Trudy and I were deeply touched. I’ll never forget that last visit with Chrissie. She ministered to Trudy and me as much as we did to her. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Chrissie is singing right now with vigour and joy in the heavenly choir!

   Turning now to our Bible passages, Chrissie—being the well organised person that she was—chose Psalm 8 for this service along with all of the hymns today. Two of the four hymns also refer to either God as Creator or the magnificence of God’s creation—In the Garden, and This is my Father’s World. Psalm 8 is known as a creation psalm. The psalmist, looking up at the clear night sky, stands in awe and wonder at the panorama view of the moon and stars. The scene is beautiful, and the psalmist at first blush feels rather small compared to the vast universe. I think you and I have had this feeling too at times when we look up at a clear night sky and see the moon and all of those stars. We too feel rather small and may ask the same question of God our Creator, as the psalmist did long ago: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” I think the question today is even more pertinent than back in the psalmist’s day because scientists tell us that if we were to travel at the speed of light, it would still take us about 100,000 years to go across our Milky Way galaxy; and beyond that there are apparently billions of galaxies. Yet, implied in the words “mindful” and “care” is the psalmist’s sense that we matter; that in the mind-boggling enormity of the universe God notices us and looks after us; in spite of or perhaps because of our smallness.

   In the next four verses, the psalmist thinks in a paradoxical way by emphasising the honoured and dignified place God has given human beings by making them “a little lower than God” [or perhaps better translated “a little lower than the angelic heavenly court”]; “crown[ing] them with glory and honour” and “giv[ing] them dominion over [all that God has made.”] The phrase “a little lower than God,” reminds us of Genesis 1 and 2, and that we are created in God’s image. Along with our special place in the universe, being given dominion over creation does not give us free license to abuse creation and exploit it into extinction. No! Rather, dominion refers to the privilege and responsibility of being stewards/managers of creation; of being partners with God our Creator in looking after creation that witnesses to God’s love and justice.

   Here I’m reminded of one of Chrissie’s bailiwicks—her social conscience and deep sense of having to advocate for what is right and just. Chrissie was a committed social activist and wrote letters of advocacy—ever ready to stand up for what was true, right and just, hence also upholding the Commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.

   Speaking of love, I think of Chrissie when I remember the words of John 3:16-17. Chrissie knew and received the love of Jesus; if at all possible, she attended church services every Sunday to hear God’s word and receive the sacrament. This was of utmost importance to her. God’s love did not remain dormant—Chrissie willingly and eagerly shared God’s love with the world around her. Anyone who knew Chrissie well I’m certain would describe her as a loving person. A person who, in her words and actions bore witness to the love of Jesus for the world. Chrissie’s love shone through her spunky, sweet and caring ways as: a mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, teacher, fellow church member and more. Her smiles always had a way of melting one’s heart. Her humour too was an expression of her love. One of her last remarks to someone who asked her how she was doing was this witty and humorous answer: “I’m cold and I’m old!”

   Chrissie knew of that greatest gift of all, the love of Christ. I think if you asked her, that she would tell you the love of Christ is the best love of all, and she would want each of you here today to have the love of Jesus. For Chrissie, Christ was faithful—blessing her with his love for 98 years! I think her prayer for each of you would be that you too would be actively involved in the life of the church to receive the love of Christ and his gift of faithfulness in your lives too. So it is that we commend Chrissie now to Jesus the LORD of love, who offers her now the gift of eternal life. Amen.